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Joel Grey on the alchemy of theater

Joel Grey on a life in the theater
Joel Grey on a life in the theater 03:05

On this Tony Sunday, thoughts from one of the giants of Broadway, renowned song-and-dance man Joel Grey, who tonight will collect his second Tony Award, this time for lifetime achievement:

The Tony Awards have aired nationally on television since 1967. I had the privilege of opening that very first telecast with a performance from "Cabaret," for which my friend John Kander composed the music.

Cabaret 1967 Tony Awards by MrPoochsmooch on YouTube

So, it's fitting that, 56 years later, we're being honored together. John has been one of the great collaborators of my life, and collaboration is what the theater is all about. Teamwork. Building something together than none of us could have created alone.

And that team includes you, the audience.

What we create together is a kind of alchemy, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can never be repeated in exactly the same way.

But now I can say with some authority, at the age of 91, that the truest record of our work in the theater isn't the memories we keep; it's the people we meet along the way, the friendships we make, the community we create.

"The Landing" Opening Night - Arrivals And Curtain Call
Joel Grey and John Kander attend the opening of "The Landing" at the Vineyard Theatre in New York City, October 23, 2013.  Walter McBride/Getty Images

And there comes a time in each of our lives in which we become reflective about our time here on Earth. When that time comes for you, I promise you it's the people who will come to the fore. The people you've known and liked and fought with and loved. So I say, tend to those relationships every single day, because nothing else much matters.

Sure, awards are great! Fond memories are wonderful. But the real honor of my life is, to quote "Anything Goes":  "Friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship."

So, as for me and John Kander, you could say,

"When other friendships are up the crick,
ours will still be slick.
Ah loddle doddle woof woof woof"

See you tonight, friends!

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Watch a tribute to Joel Grey and John Kander featuring actors who have played the Emcee in the London production of "Cabaret" (YouTube)

2023 Tony Awards: A "Cabaret" tribute to Joel Grey and John Kander by CBS Sunday Morning on YouTube

Watch The 76th Tony Awards presented live June 11 on CBS and Paramount+ beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT; preshow on Pluto TV

2023 TONY AWARDS: Here are the nominees

For more info:

Story produced by Jay Kernis. Editor: David Bhagat. 

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